Now the latest iPhones have been revealed, attention turns to Huawei. Its Mate 30 series is now the most highly-anticipated launch, for several reasons.
The unveiling takes place in Munich on Thursday, September 18, but a series of press renders have leaked, according to the ever-dependable Evan Blass.
There will be four phones in the series, the Mate 30 Lite, Mate 30 and the one we’re. concerned with here: the Huawei Mate 30 Pro. The fourth will be the Mate 30 Pro Porsche Design, which is more of a niche model.
Front and rear of the Huawei Mate 30 Pro, it’s claimed.
This is the bit we’ve seen before but the latest images look splendid. The circular bezel around the four cameras evokes a camera lens itself, so it’s a particularly satisfying piece of design.
And note that the cameras don’t seem to protrude very far at all, unlike almost every other smartphone out there apart from the Nokia 9 PureView.
The notch isn’t small – room for a second camera
The front-facing camera and other tech are sitting in a bigger cut-out than on the Huawei P30 Pro, for instance. This suggests that the new phone will have two cameras, designed to make face unlocking faster and more secure than on current Huawei phones. Perhaps secure enough to authorize payments? We’ll see, though remember the current Huawei flagships include a fingerprint sensor under the display so that’s likely here as well.
Is this the sumptuous waterfall edge to the Huawei Mate 30 Pro?
The display design is sumptuous
This is what’s called a waterfall display. No, there’s no actual water involved, it means the way the display cascades over the edges like, you’ve guessed it, a waterfall. It’s one of the things that makes the phone looks so gorgeous and appealing.
Only one button – so where’s the volume control?
There’s a simplicity to design with fewer buttons, especially since there’s no visible fingerprint sensor, too. But the only previous phone with barely any buttons, from LG, had big volume rockers either side of the fingerprint/power button. This doesn’t seem to, seeming to confirm a previous rumor that the volume controls, like the fingerprint sensor, will be buried under the display. Cool, huh?
And one big unanswered question
This kind of leak can’t answer the biggest question of all: what software will the Mate 30 Pro use? Unless something changes in the U.S.-China trade negotiations, it seems Huawei can’t use the full Google Mobile Services Android on its next phones.
Now, things are changing very quickly in this situation but I doubt there’ll be any movement before this week’s reveal.
So, don’t be surprised if there’s a gap between announcement and release or even if Huawei play things close to their chest.
It could choose to put its own Harmony OS onboard but it’s made clear that’s a back-up, not the first choice.
It could put open-source Android on the phone and find some way to make it easy for customers to add apps like Google Maps, Gmail and so on. That’s possible, too.
That may not be answered this week, but for everything else, not long until we know.
I’ve been writing about technology for two decades and am always struck by how the sector swings from startling innovation to regular repetitiveness. My areas of specialty are wearable tech, cameras, home entertainment and mobile technology. Over the years I’ve written about gadgets for the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Times, the Daily Mail, the Sun, Metro, Stuff, T3, Pocket-lint, Wareable.com and Wired. Right now most of my work away from Forbes appears in the Independent, the Evening Standard and Monocle Magazine. Parenthetically, I also work as an actor, enjoying equally the first Mission Impossible movie, a season at Shakespeare’s Globe and a stint on Hollyoaks. Follow me on Instagram: davidphelantech, or Twitter: @davidphelan2009
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The cofounder of smartphone maker OnePlus, and 30 Under 30 Asia alumni Carl Pei sat down with Forbes Asia at this year’s Under 30 Summit in Hong Kong.
After cutting his teeth at Chinese phone makers Meizu, and OPPO, Pei decided consumers deserved a better Android product. In December 2013, he set out with founder Pete Lau to do just that — build a feature-packed device that costs a fraction of market peers.
The OnePlus One was an immediate hit among the tech community online. Following a few years of blockbuster sales through e-commerce channels, his team is taking on a new challenge: shifting from direct to consumer models, to distribution through major telecom carriers.
The challenge, Pei says, is to build brand recognition and sell more phones offline through brick and mortar stores in Western markets, though OnePlus has been making headway starting with its 2017 venture into working with carriers in Europe, and just last year launching with T-Mobile across 5,600 stores in the US. The 29-year-old also weighs in on the future of 5G and the impact on the company’s product offerings.
Pamela covers entrepreneurs, wealth, blockchain and the crypto economy as a senior reporter across digital and print platforms. Prior to Forbes, she served as on-air foreign correspondent for Thomson Reuters’ broadcast team, during which she reported on global markets, central bank policies, and breaking business news. Before Asia, she was a journalist at NBC Comcast, and started her career at CNBC and Bloomberg as a financial news producer in New York. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and holds an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Yahoo, USA Today, Huffington Post, and Nasdaq. Pamela’s previous incarnation was on the buy side in M&A research and asset management, inspired by Michael Lewis’ book “Liar’s Poker”. Follow me on Twitter at @pamambler
He’s worked on Windows Mobile for Microsoft. He was cofounder of a company that sold to Russia’s Google, Yandex, in a reported $38 million deal that made him wealthy.
But Yaroslav Goncharov’s biggest success (and stress) has come with a company that’s miniscule by comparison: FaceApp. Leading a staff of just 12, the geeky, excitable 40-year-old has created what’s currently the world’s hottest (and possibly most controversial) app, which uses artificial intelligence-powered filters to gender-swap or radically age selfies.
It topped the download charts for both Android and iPhone this past week after millions followed celebrities like Dwyane Wade, Drake and Iggy Azalea in doing the “FaceApp Challenge.” The “challenge” was simple: take a photo, apply the aging filter and post an image on Instagram, Twitter, wherever, of the older you.
Now he tells Forbes about plans to calm the privacy storm. The new FaceApp terms and policy will likely remove references to the rights that the company claimed over people’s images, he says. The current terms grant FaceApp almost complete ownership over submitted faces, letting the company use, alter and sell the photo however it wants, with no compensation for the user. “People got scared because they think everything we say in this policy we do, which of course is not the case at all,” he says.
He reiterates that the company deletes photos in 48 hours, asking the Amazon and Google servers, on which FaceApp runs, to automatically wipe data that’s been on the system for that time. He also notes that photos aren’t used for any commercial purposes. As for why the company stores faces on a server for 48 hours, the CEO says that users don’t want to have to re-upload a photo every time they apply a new filter. So the image has to stay on the server temporarily.
Little will therefore change at the code level, though there’s now a notification when opening the app, asking the user to confirm that they are happy that photos will be taken to a remote cloud. Besides, it’s not FaceApp that users should be worried about when it comes to privacy, but all the other apps they’re already using, Goncharov argues. “There are so many other apps that collect much more data,” he says. “We just don’t.”
An “unusual success”
At Microsoft in the early 2000s, Goncharov got a taste of the smartphone-obsessed future. He was a software developer on what was then Windows Mobile long before the iPhone and Android became a reality. He thought he was creating the first open, large-scale cellphone operating system, something like Android long before Google’s OS existed. “I was sure I was building the future,” he recalls of his time in Redmond.
But the working for a startup in his home city of St. Petersburg was too much of a draw. He joined SPB Software as chief technology officer and was one of three partners alongside Vassili Philippov and Sebastian-Justus Schmidt. The company started out developing alternative home screens for Windows Phone—a platform Goncharov was very familiar with from his time in Washington state. But SPB had to pivot when Windows began to flounder in the face of Apple’s and Google’s rival platforms. Goncharov laments that after he left, Windows tried to compete with Apple by producing a closed system, rather than choose the open, partner-led focus that Android took. “When I think about it, it still hurts.”
Not long after SPB had refocused on Android, Russian search engine Yandex came calling with a $38 million check in 2011. The FaceApp founder won’t disclose how much he made from the deal, other than to tell Forbes: “Let’s say that I had enough money to start my own company and not worry about looking for additional investments.” Cofounder Schmidt also declined to provide confirmation on figures.
During his time at Microsoft and then at Yandex, Goncharov, ever the engineer, became fascinated by neural networks—hardware and software that try to learn and process information like the human brain. He was particularly drawn to the idea that an algorithm could generate a face from given attributes, like gender or hair color. “The quality at that point was terrible, but there was still some magic.” He says that after six months of tinkering, the quality of the images his neural nets were creating were much better than what was previously available.
Once he left Yandex in 2013, he moved on to creating his own products, one of his first being a hotel Wi-Fi testing tool that garnered some success. But, wanting to create a product from those face-generating algorithms, he starting working on FaceApp in 2016. It launched in 2017, still in what Goncharov describes as a beta version. Even in its basic form, it went viral for the first time after a “hotness” filter made people prettier.
With millions of users enamored with the app, Goncharov quickly had to formulate a business plan. His idea was that people would pay for an automated photo editor, so he added a paid-for subscription offer that would remove the FaceApp watermark and irritating ads, as well as add some premium features. Effectively, FaceApp was to replace PhotoShop editors with AI, Goncharov ventured.
FaceApp making millions
It has paid off, according to the CEO. “We have success, but very unusual success,” boasts Goncharov, who owns 100% of the business.
Without providing substantiating data, he claims FaceApp has been profitable since the first launch two years ago, with “good” revenue and growth figures. “We’re very profitable,” he says. “I could easily have got investment from Silicon Valley… but we had enough to grow organically.” While Goncharov has no need for Silicon Valley investors for now (he says he may approach VCs in the future), others in the bubbly business of photo apps have either taken big funding rounds or been acquired. Snapchat snapped up Looksery for a reported $150 million in 2015 and Teleport for $8 million in 2018 to help grow its library of AI-powered filters, while Oakland-based photo app VSCO raised $90 million over two rounds.
FaceApp makes money from nothing more than a paid-for subscription service. But the founder declines to say how much revenue that’s drawing in or how many paying customers he has. He also won’t disclose user numbers.
Goncharov does, however, disclose that the paying customer base was roughly 1%. And looking at the number of downloads (not active users) revealed on Google Play, there are in excess of 100 million. Even taking a conservative estimate of 100 million users across Android and iOS, and just 1% signing up for a single month’s premium use at $3.99, the company is making at least $4 million per annum, and potentially a lot more if it’s locking in more users. (It’s also possible to pay $20 for a year’s access or $40 for lifetime use). Goncharov declined to comment on that estimate. But it’s not bad for a 12-employee business that’s been profitable for two years, by Goncharov’s account at least.
As for what’s next, video is on the horizon. Though other companies like Snapchat already do this with live filters, Goncharov doesn’t want to launch something that’s anything less than “magical.” He’s hoping that magic isn’t diminished by another privacy panic.
I cover security and privacy for Forbes. I’ve been breaking news and writing features on these topics for major publications since 2010. As a freelancer, I worked for The Guardian, Vice Motherboard, Wired and BBC.com, amongst many others. I was named BT Security Journalist of the year in 2012 and 2013 for a range of exclusive articles, and in 2014 was handed Best News Story for a feature on US government harassment of security professionals. I like to hear from hackers who are breaking things for either fun or profit and researchers who’ve uncovered nasty things on the web. Tip me on Signal at 447837496820. I use WhatsApp and Treema too. Or you can email me at TBrewster@forbes.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A new report from BI Intelligence addresses how in-store mobile payments volume will grow through 2021, why that’s below past expectations, and what successful cases can teach other players in the space.
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